Change in Mavericks contact syncing draws privacy concerns

Change in Mavericks contact syncing draws privacy concerns

Summary: Apple eliminated the option to manually sync contacts to an iPhone or iPad in OS X 10.9 and it has drawn the ire of security minded Apple users worldwide.

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TOPICS: Apple, Cloud, Security
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Apple's Mavericks (a.k.a. OS X 10.9) has eliminated the choice to manually sync contacts between Macs and iOS devices, instead forcing their storage on iCloud. Apple is moving away from Sync Services and removed the option to manually sync contacts in the process. Another problem is that contacts stored on iCloud can only be removed by canceling the iCloud account.

The Apple Discussions forums are rife with complaints about the change because of privacy issues associated with storing contacts on iCloud. Apple users in Europe are particularly vocal due the NSA privacy scandal and because privacy laws tend to be more stringent outside the U.S. 

Apple Executive Customer Service told one reader that engineers will only fix problem if enough people complain and/or provide the company with feedback (ideally under Mac OS X). After entering your name, email address and subject (I suggest something like "Mavericks Contact Sync"),  select "Design/Ease of Use" under the Feedback Type drop down and "Applications/Utilities" under the Feedback Area drop down. In the comments field, you could enter something like "I'd like manual syncing of contacts to be reinstated in OS X 10.9/ Mavericks."

Apple's Mac OS X feedback form - Jason O'Grady

iCloud is great for some services but contacts can be highly sensitive and personal, requiring user control and management. It's not hard to imagine that contacts could be exposed (either through a security breach or by request of the NSA) and that's too risky for many users.

Apple's move away from Sync Services is a strategic mistake that eliminates user choice, especially in this sensitive area. Since the change in Mavericks was unannounced, many users have complained that they wouldn't have upgraded to OS X 10.9 if they knew that manual contact sync was eliminated.

User Barney-15E has posted a workaround which allows users to host their own CalDAV and CardDAV server using Baïkal Server. If you set up a CalDAV/CardDAV server on your Mac running Mavericks you'll be able to sync between that Mac and an iPhone. It requires a little time to set up, and the need to download some (free) third party software, and it also requires a willingness to use Terminal. 

Topics: Apple, Cloud, Security

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14 comments
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  • Really..

    Big yawner. Considering all of the crap people are pushing into more "phished" services like Google, and Yahoo mail. This is not a big deal to me.
    Johnpford
    • I think Jason has been getting his facts from Fandroid hate sites again.

      The bigger reason why it isn't a big deal, is because it's largely untrue. I think Jason has been getting his facts from Fandroid hate sites again.

      For example, take the simple statement

      "Another problem is that contacts stored on iCloud can only be removed by canceling the iCloud account."

      No. Just selecting the contact and pressing the Delete Contact button under Edit does it just fine.
      Henry 3 Dogg
  • Really? That's a big deal?

    People reveal more craps on Facebook or Twitter, but you complaint about this??? But Google collect everything about a person is ok???? Sometimes really don't understand all these tech writers.
    Teco222
    • I guess the difference is that with Facebook

      YOU choose when, where, who, and what info people get.

      In this case, APPLE is choosing......
      William.Farrel
      • Um, no. Apple is only syncing contacts

        between devices with the same iCloud ID. Your contacts aren't going anywhere else. If you don't want them to sync, move them from iCloud to On My Mac. If you don't see On My Mac, do the following: Disable your iCloud from the Accounts window (don't delete it, just disable it). This will let you see On My Mac in the contact sidebar. Create at least one group. Re-enable iCloud from Accounts. You will now see iCloud and On My Mac in your Contacts sidebar. Anything you don't want to sync, drag to the On My Mac groups.
        baggins_z
  • Yes, it's a big deal

    Maybe not to you guys but to millions of ordinary people who don't want to share their lives with the NSA, don't dump their personal data on Facebook, and who take care to restrict companies like Google and Yahoo! from grabbing what they can.

    Even if privacy isn't your concern, some of us who live outside metropolitan areas and have truly crappy broadband that is capped at a low level and costs a fortune, just can't use cloud services at all because they gobble up our monthly download/upload allowance.
    graywave
    • Understood

      But if you use a phone or send an email, you are fair game. Having your address book outside the cloud is meaningless unless everything you do is highly encrypted. The fact you are on this site means you are exposed to NSA probes. They are sniffing for data they deem interesting all the time. So are the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Russians...
      Luke Skywalker
  • yes, not just privacy

    iCloud on iPhone is not usable when you live without easy wireless access most of the time, or travelling long term.
    USB syncing is the only way for me.
    That means iPhone3g users shouldn't use osx 10.9! Good thing found this article before upgrading.
    I lost the ability to sync notes when I upgraded to 10.8. And don't want to lose the whole sync thing now.
    rabbids-1d765
  • Tempest in a teapot.

    The NSA can sniff your cell phone conversations in real time, so not quite sure how you're any safer by syncing your contact info via a USB cable as opposed to an apple iCloud server.
    baggins_z
  • Clouding the Issue

    If it's not so much about data security, it's still about Apple's arrogance in removing more choices from its users.
    baron58y
  • This is not really true

    Go to the Contacts app on your Mac. Not all your contacts will be on iCloud. Actually none of them will be unless you create them on your iPhone. That was a nuisance, so I had to move all my contacts to the iCloud, and then they showed up on the iPhone.

    Why would anyone want to steal this data? No one does. The iCloud synching is great, because I had add something to my notes, and there it is on both my phone and Mac. I use this constantly.

    Meanwhile my Windows using friends with iPhones have to do it all manually and hate it.
    DavidRavenMoon
  • It's a BIG deal.

    There are a whole lot of people who don't want their personal on servers that apple shares with Amazon and Microsoft.

    In fact there's a rapidly growing petition to bring back 100% local sync.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/apple-bring-the-100-offline-sync-for-ios-back

    This article is on the mark. Without local sync, those Android phones are looking a lot more appealing.

    Ironically, windows users still have the ability to locally sync iPhones with their computers.

    Barney-15E's workaround is rather complex. Most users are downgrading back to Mountain Lion from Vista, I mean Mavericks.

    HUGE mistake by apple.
    JboneGonzo
  • Surprise?

    Not really. Apple doesn't think of privacy [well neither does Google]. Look at http://www.zdnet.com/safari-on-mac-os-exposes-web-login-credentials-7000024287
    Gisabun
  • OSX Mavericks Contact Sync Privacy Issue Solved

    There's a simple solution on the App Store called "DirectSync" that lets you directly copy your contacts from your Mac to your iOS device and vice-versa with vCard export files using iTunes "File Sharing". It works using your USB cable from your Mac to your iOS device. Just US $0.99. Runs on all your iOS devices.
    MeerkatMac